The goal for the March is Easter Seals Month campaign is $80,000, announced by Elsabe Falkson, Rotarian and Easter Seals committee chair.
It was announced at the Easter Seals campaign kick-off event, which took place at Kingsbridge Retirement Community on Thursday evening.
It’s hoped donations will help fund 950 pieces of equipment, 200 more than were funded in the 2019 campaign.
The month-long campaign celebrates success stories, showcases Easter Seals children and their families, recognizes donors and sponsors, and raises essential funds for children and youth with physical disabilities.
But according to Laura Patterson, mother of six-year-old Bo, it’s so much more than being just about the wheelchair.
“Easter Seals supports our family with things like a bath seat, which I thought, ‘How much could that really cost?’ Well, it was $1,500 for a glorified lawn chair, but it allows Bo to safely have a bath every day at home, which he loves,” Patterson said. “We can’t say enough about this organization.”
The mobility equipment these children need to gain independence, freedom and dignity can be expensive — from leg braces, stairlifts and bath seats to wheelchairs and walkers, and all the way up to retrofitted family vehicles.
As many parents know — children grow fast, which means they can grow out of their much-needed equipment.
The Pattersons were one of three families on hand to share their stories as Easter Seal family ambassadors.
For William Fenlong, he has spent the past three summers at Camp Merrywood, an Easter Seals accessible camp, which he said was a lot of fun, especially the time he gets to spend on the water, both swimming and sailing.
Nicole Hayes, mother of three-year-old Jessica, told the crowd that they, unfortunately, haven’t received funding yet. With Easter Seals funds running out before their application was processed, she’s been lucky enough to get some “passed down” communication and mobility equipment that didn’t need to be customized and was donated through the kids inclusive and other families whose children have outgrown the gear.
“One piece of equipment might be funded by Easter Seals, but it could possibly go (to help) multiple children, so it’s not just one child that’s being (positively) affected,” Hayes said. “It really does impact our lives, more than people realize.”
She will be applying again this year.
The evening also featured guest speaker Kevin Collins, Easter Seals Ontario president and CEO, who shared his experiences with Easter Seals.
“Kingston and the surrounding community makes such an impact for us as an organization and supports so many of our kids,” Collins said. “I had a chance as a kid (to attend Easter Seals camp), and I know for me personally what it did for me, giving me my independence, allowing me to excel in certain things, like a variety of sports, but one of the most important things it did for me was it allowed me the opportunity to meet and be friends with other individuals who were facing very similar challenges, very similar barriers, curbs and restrictions in their day-to-day lives.”
Collins announced that Kingston has been leading the way in support with a new model of supporting and promoting the organization, away from its traditional telethons, which will be rolled out in other communities in the province.
There will be a number of community events throughout March that will help support the Easter Seals campaign.
The annual campaign also has an online donation page at marchiseastersealsmonth.org, with local residents being able to make their donations on the “South Eastern Ontario” page.